Classic Vegan Bolognese
In my family, we called Bolognese “meat sauce,” and I’d never even heard the term “Spag Bol” until I moved to England! Over the years, I’ve adapted and perfected my plant-based version of this classic pasta sauce to create a dish that’s somewhere in between traditional Bolognese (minus the meat, of course) and the more simplified sauce my mom used to make. Bolognese is traditionally eaten with tagliatelle, or other wide, flat noodles, so I’ve paired this rich sauce with pappardelle, but it will taste just as great with the pasta of your choice!
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely diced
- 5–6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 2 ribs celery, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons (7 g) Italian seasoning (or 1½ tsp [5 g] each dried basil, parsley, oregano, and sage)
- 12 oz (340 g) fresh or frozen vegan “ground beef”
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan red or white wine
- 2 tablespoons (32 g) tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) tamari or soy sauce
- 1 (28-oz [794-g]) can crushed or chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups (500 g) tomato passata
- 2 teaspoons (12 g) flaked sea salt, plus more to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 2-3 dried bay leaves
- Handful of fresh basil, leaves only (optional)
- 12 oz (340 g) dried pappardelle or other long, flat pasta of choice
- Almond parm
- Fresh Basil
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, and once hot, sauté the onions for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft and translucent.
Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute before adding the carrots and celery to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the veg has softened, then add the seasoning and vegan “ground beef,” stirring it into the sautéed veg.
Cook for another 5 minutes (or until the “meat” is thawed and cooked through if using frozen), stirring occasionally, then pour in the wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat to cook off the alcohol.
Next, add the tomato paste and tamari, along with the tomatoes and tomato passata. Stir everything together until well incorporated, and then season with the salt and pepper and add in the bay leaves.
Cover the pot with a lid and simmer on medium-low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally throughout. If the sauce is sticking to the bottom of the pot, reduce the heat a little. If adding basil, stir it into the sauce just before serving. Season with more salt and pepper as needed.
When the Bolognese is nearly ready, cook the pasta in salted, boiling water to al dente. Drain, then transfer it back to the pot it was cooked in, and stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce to keep the pasta from sticking together. Serve topped with a generous portion of Bolognese and garnish with Almond parm and basil. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
For an added depth of flavor, stir in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of balsamic vinegar or 2 to 3 teaspoons (10 to 15 ml) of vegan Worcestershire sauce (or both!) to the sauce while it simmers.
While Almond parm is my go-to pasta garnish, there’s a secret hack for when you want the look and feel of Parmesan but don’t have any on hand (or perhaps don’t want to add any extra saltiness to the dish). The secret is NUTS! Yes, that’s right: You can grate most nuts using a microplane or fine grater to get soft, nutty flakes that look just like Parmesan, and taste mild and delicious. My favorite nuts for grating are walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts.
Reprinted with permission from The Vegan Pasta Cookbook by Rebecca Hincke. Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Rebecca Hincke.